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942 Mosquito Bait 2014-07-14

swatted mosqutioes on my hand

While camped at Jenny Lake in the Tetons, we decided to take a hike from the String Lake Trailhead to Leigh Lake, around Leigh Lake to the north shore, and then continuing around the west side of the lake as we looked for a route to the southeast drainage of Mount Moran. The drainage is used as the approach to the the moderate CMC Route. A trail used to follow the shoreline past the southeast drainage to Leigh Canyon, but the Park changed the status of trail to an unmaintained path some years ago. The trail of yore was supposedly overgrown and with many downed trees.

We have been wanting to climb Moran for some time now. The CMC is a classic route and well within our capabilities. We have talked about climbing the route but never have. The logistics for the climb include getting to the trail's beginning at the shoreline of the drainage. Most folks take a canoe over to the drainage (about a 2 hour paddle, including the portage) and then let the canoe sit until their return trip. However at $50 (plus) per day to rent a boat (for three days), the trip is fairly costly - at least for our budget. We were looking for a cheaper alternative. We were going to look for a hiking route to the drainage.

reflection of the cathedral group in smooth as glass String Lake

At the String Lake Trailhead we started on the easy trail on a perfectly still morning. Not far down the trail we were greeted by our first mosquitoes. We both had started off hiking in short sleeve shirts - so we quickly stopped and donned wind shirts to keep the bugs at bay. Starting back walking we increased our speed a bit. The mosquitoes were able to keep up.

We do not like to use insect repellent, but there is a time and place for everything. Well, it was time. We stopped again and began the search for insect repellent. After a thorough search of our packs, we came to realize that neither of us had any. I mean none. Now, we are very careful packers and always carry at least the essentials, but somehow insect repellent had fallen off the packing list. In our defense, it had been years since we had used repellents while hiking. We were also camped just a few miles south of String Lake at Jenny Lake and there the mosquitoes were present, but not overwhelming.

With no repellents, we went ahead and shouldered our packs again, continuing on our hike. Our thoughts were - maybe the mosquitoes would stop biting as the day heated up. We actually both thought about turning around, but no one said a word.

As we hiked, we swatted, and swatted, and swatted. The mosquitoes were absolutely everywhere. I tried to protect my neck, but the tricky little bugs, found ways to get inside the defenses I set. I looked down at my hands and found them on my palms, between my fingers, and even hiding under my watch. It was all out war. I killed hundreds of them, maybe more. With one swat it was easy to kill five or so at a time, but their brothers soon landed to take the place of the few that had fallen. Their seemed to be an infinite supply of attackers.

After three miles, we were near the start of our off trail destination - at the head of Leigh Lake, but we were defeated. It was time to admit it. We looked at the map to see if we could find a different route that would not follow a body of water, but could not find one. We searched again for repellents, but the results were the same. Our only defenses were to keep moving and to swat. We gave up our search for the route to the southeast drainage, we were fighting for our lives.

Bear cub print on the sandy path

On the way back we did find a perfect bear cubs print left along the sandy trail. As you examine the photo, remember the blood that was sacrificed to bring you that picture! There was also a large pile of scat nearby. We decided to pick up our pace and move a little faster..

We scurried back to the trailhead and were at the vehicle in one hour. A family of backpackers were getting ready for a backcountry overnight trip and were going to hike the same trail we had just left. They asked about the trail, we suggested that they take plenty of repellent!

As we drove off, the dad was heeding our advise and had several brands of repellent in his hands, ready to pack it. Hopefully, the five cans would be enough for survival.

In hindsight, when we realized that we did not have repellent and were destined to be bait of the day, we should have returned to the vehicle. We had repellents stashed in the car, but we were a half of a mile from the trailhead so we continued, hoping the bugs would go away. It was a good lesson for us, hopefully we will learn form our mistake!

Happy Mosquito Bait trails


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